Hazel Roberts is an award-winning artist based in Manchester. Since graduating in Fine Art from Cardiff in the late nineties, Hazel has exhibited nationally, gained a Masters in Design and participates in a variety of research projects and symposiums. Her recent win of this year’s Left Bank Leeds Art Prize and commission by the TUC means she’s extremely busy!
1. Congratulations on winning the Left Bank Leeds Art Prize 2018. Can you tell us about your winning piece?
Thanks, I still can’t believe I won. They are such a fantastic organisation. It is a real honour and the other artists shortlisted are unbelievably talented. The piece that won is the first of a series of three prints – Organise, Educate and Agitate. I created them earlier in the year in response to a commission for the TUC (Trade Union Congress) the objective was to create a piece of work to celebrate 150 years of congress, but there was such a wealth of stories and documents that I created three. It became so much more than a commission as it was dealing with a subject I’m passionate about. I think there are still several pieces of work still to be created. When looking through the archives it was difficult to decided on what events to focus on, but in the end I decided to take a constructivist approach using dynamic bold shapes interwoven with important pieces of communication. The piece ‘Organise’ features a hand written budget from the 1888 Match girls’ strike and a correspondence from the matchmakers union. I’ve purposely tried to keep the work simple, but like all things that appear simple it is rather complex. The multi layered screen print took months to complete, in the end I think there were 36 different layers.
2. When did your passion for printmaking grow?
Probably in the last 5 years, I originally started out my image-making career as a painter. In the late 90’s I studied Fine Art in Cardiff. At the time I was convinced paint was the only medium for me and would never thought I would venture into other areas, but reality struck and after graduating I needed a job so I began working as a graphic designer. The positive side of this was that it introduced me to a whole new way of working, where things could easily be duplicated, enlarged, and precision was possible. This was all great, but I felt I had become very functional and I was missing the excitement and adrenaline painting had given me. In an attempt to re-energise myself I decided to study for a MA in design, but made the decision to approach it from a Fine Art perspective. This led me to experiment with printmaking and ever since then I’ve been hooked. I learnt I could combine the freedoms of fine art with the sensibility of graphic design. The medium offered that unpredictability I was craving, whilst maintaining a need for discipline and ruthless accuracy.
3. How does an idea begin and transform into a screen-print which can then be hung in a gallery?
This is a difficult question, ideas come from all sorts of places, whether it’s experience of bigger issues such as inequality or just the need to be playful. I usually start by sketching ideas out, this leads to experiments with mark-making and a bit of a ‘cut and paste’ approach to image-making. I’ll then transfer this to the screen and begin experimenting and at this point I’ll start working out a more formal composition.
4. I was lucky to see your joint exhibition ‘Oneness’ with Laura McFadden earlier this year, what themes such as identity are behind your art?
The theme of identity does occur in my work, through both the personal and the political. Sometimes this is direct, but other times it can be obscured by playfulness. The work I’ve been doing recently has been very intuitive, and this can be a little too revealing. I think that is probably the main reason I haven’t really been sharing it with anyone. Although it’s quite abstract there are a few bold statements in there.
5. What are you currently working on?
There are two projects that I’m currently working on. The first project I have been developing on and off for the last year. I have been given access to a ‘blacklist’ with the details of thousands of people from the North West who were prevented from working in the 70’s/80’s. There are many reasons for their exclusion, but in most of the cases it was because of their affiliation to the Communist party. I have been creating ‘clocking off cards’ that I hope to exhibit as an installation. I’m currently looking for a venue.
The second project by contrast is the creation of a series of experimental prints. I’m trying my best to loosen up, taking a Dadaist approach and selecting from a library of cuttings, mark-making and statements. I’m trying to use them to respond to my frustrations, that are both big and small. I’m not sure where its going yet, but I’m surprising myself all the time!